Through large-scale sculptural installations of rooftops and porches, Heather Hart transforms exhibition spaces into interactive sites, inviting visitors to contemplate what it means to create a Black space of joy and reflection. Growing up with a carpenter father, she witnessed how lumber can demarcate and frame spaces, and how these spaces become containers for social relations and memories.
In the exhibition Heather Hart: Afrotecture (Re)Collection at UB Art Galleries, the artist’s sculptural installation “Sweet Lorraine” (2021) explores a space neither wholly interior nor exterior: a balcony. The work directly “quotes” — to use Hart’s word — the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
By recreating a section of this historic balcony, Hart hopes to prompt viewers to question the mutability of architecture’s function and significance, as well as its role in invoking past struggles amid current ones. How do we memorialize a person or an event through place-making? How do we build a space big enough to hold a traumatic past that can also harbor joy and foster encouragement for the work ahead?
This exhibition is an invitation to reflect on a balcony that exists in our collective psyche and memory, as well as in concrete form in Memphis. Where these reflections lead us is part of the ongoing struggle to move forward as a people, guided by shared histories and inspirations for the changes ahead.
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Heather Hart: Afrotecture (Re)Collection is organized by Liz Park, Curator of Exhibitions, UB Art Galleries. Design and construction assistance was provided by Assembly House 150, Buffalo, NY. This project is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.